Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ending the Old Year with a Bang!

This is a picture of my sister Annie in Rome from a few years ago when she and her husband John stayed there with friends for about a month. The longer you're in Rome, of course, the greater your chances are of meeting a big shot.

Annie is not a groupie. She barely knows what People magazine is and rarely watches TV. Like me, she lives in another world, and it's not populated with movie stars or politicians or other such creatures

Annie is big on seizing the moment, so when Fabio appeared in her path that summer in Rome, she said hello and received a warm, friendly hello and hug in return. And yesterday when John Travolta appeared in the fitness club that Annie and John frequent, she also said hello and received an equally warm, friendly hello and hug in return.

Annie is quite the dancer, but, no, she and John Travolta didn't pair off (no, at that precise moment he wasn't wearing his famous white suit!), though she could have given him a run for his money. Nor did she get a picture of the two of them together, but it was still an awful lot of fun.

That's my sister Annie! Seizing the moment and enjoying every second of it! To life! No wonder I look up to her!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!"

The entrance antiphon from today's Mass, the Sixth Day of the Octave of Christmas, speaks of the silence of the Incarnate Word: "When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run half of her swift course, your all-powerful word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven, from the royal throne' (Wis 18:14-15).

"God is the friend of silence," Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say. Her meditation below says it all.

If we really want to pray we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart God speaks. And to be able to see that silence, to be able to hear God, we need a clean heart, for a clean heart we can see God, can hear God, can listen to God.

When it is difficult to pray we must help ourselves to do so. The first means to use is silence, for souls of prayer are souls of great silence. We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practise internal and external silence.

God is the friend of silence.

Let us adore Jesus in our hearts, who spent thirty years out of thirty-three in silence, who began his public life by spending forty days in silence, who often retired alone to spend the night on a mountain in silence. He who spoke with authority, now spends his earthly life in silence. Let us adore Jesus in the Eucharistic silence.

We need to find God and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. See how nature, the trees, the flowers, the grass grow in perfect silence – see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. Is not our mission to give God to the poor in the slums? Not a dead God but a living, loving God. The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life.

Silence gives us a new outlook on everything. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and through us. Jesus is always waiting for us in silence. In that silence he will listen to us, there he will speak to our soul, and there we will be able to hear his voice. Interior silence is very difficult but we must make the effort. In silence we will find new energy and true unity. The energy of God will be ours to do all things well. The unity of our thoughts with his thoughts, the unity of our actions with his actions, of our life with his life. All our words will be useless, unless they come from within – words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.

Dear Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word, teach us to adore our God and King in peaceful silence with you. Amen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This is what God is like...

Let us once again listen directly to the Gospel [Lk 2:15-20]. The shepherds tell one another the reason why they are setting off: “Let us see this thing that has happened.” Literally the Greek text says: “Let us see this Word that has occurred there.” Yes indeed, such is the radical newness of this [Christmas Eve] night: the Word can be seen. For it has become flesh. The God of whom no image may be made – because any image would only diminish, or rather distort him – this God has himself become visible in the One who is his true image, as Saint Paul puts it (cf. 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15). In the figure of Jesus Christ, in the whole of his life and ministry, in his dying and rising, we can see the Word of God and hence the mystery of the living God himself. This is what God is like. The Angel had said to the shepherds: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12; cf. 2:16). God’s sign, the sign given to the shepherds and to us, is not an astonishing miracle. God’s sign is his humility. God’s sign is that he makes himself small; he becomes a child; he lets us touch him and he asks for our love. How we would prefer a different sign, an imposing, irresistible sign of God’s power and greatness! But his sign summons us to faith and love, and thus it gives us hope: this is what God is like. He has power, he is Goodness itself. He invites us to become like him. Yes indeed, we become like God if we allow ourselves to be shaped by this sign; if we ourselves learn humility and hence true greatness; if we renounce violence and use only the weapons of truth and love. Origen, taking up one of John the Baptist’s sayings, saw the essence of paganism expressed in the symbol of stones: paganism is a lack of feeling, it means a heart of stone that is incapable of loving and perceiving God’s love. Origen says of the pagans: “Lacking feeling and reason, they are transformed into stones and wood” (in Lk 22:9). Christ, though, wishes to give us a heart of flesh. When we see him, the God who became a child, our hearts are opened. In the Liturgy of the holy night [of Christmas Eve], God comes to us as man, so that we might become truly human. Let us listen once again to Origen: “Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may be able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)” (in Lk 22:3).

Yes indeed, that is what we should pray for on this Holy Night. Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen.

~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, 12/24/09

Monday, December 28, 2009

Shine in us, Emmanuel!

Shine in us,
Shadowless Light.
Flame in us
Fire of Love,
Burn in us,
Morning Star.
God with us!
~Caryll Houselander

O Mary, mother of the Savior,
spouse of the Holy Spirit, Our Lady of Light,
shed upon us the brightness and beauty of the light of your Son,
hat we may find our way back to our Heavenly Father.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Father, help us to live as the holy family, united in respect and love. Bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home... Teach us the sanctity of human love, show us the value of family life, and help us to live in peace with all men that we may share in your life forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. ~from the Opening Prayers for the Mass of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26, Feast of St. Stephen, First Martyr

Yesterday we gathered at the manger of the Divine Child. Today we meet at the cross of our Lord and Savior. If today's feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, seems to strike a discordant note during this happy Christmastide, we only need remember St. Paul's immortal words: "But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14). The wood of the crib foretells the wood of the cross. The Virgin Mother lay her Divine Child in the manger. The Sorrowful Mother received her Beloved Son from the cross. We can never escape the cross, Thomas a Kempis tells us, because it is always there. And so is Jesus, just as he was there with St. Stephen, filling him with grace and power even unto the end. Lord Jesus, receive our spirit!

Dear Mary, Virgin Mother, let us draw near with you to the crib and the cross to adore your Beloved Son and to embrace him with all our being. Amen.

(The above statue of the Infant Jesus on the Cross is made by the Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery of Whitesville, KY and sold in their Monastery Gift Shop. These beautiful nuns have a wonderful blog that I enjoy reading regularly!)

Friday, December 25, 2009


For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government
shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6
Dear Mary, Virgin Mother of Divine Child, we rejoice with you at the birth of your Son, Jesus, our precious Lord and Savior. May there always be room for you to lay him in the manger of our hearts. Amen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Dear Mary, Virgin Mother of the Incarnate Word, tonight it is our joy to rest in peace with you and your Beloved Son Jesus, who is forever the light of the world. Amen.

December 24

Today you will know that the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see his glory. ~Invitatory Antiphon from the Liturgy of the Hours for December 24

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man. You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come. Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time. ~from a sermon by St. Augustine, Office of Readings for December 24
Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, the day has come at last when you will bring forth your firstborn Son. How great our joy! Amen! Alleluia!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Emmanuel!

Never again are we to look at the stars as we did when we were children, and wonder how far it is to God. A being outside our world would be a spectator, looking on but taking no part in this life where we try to be brave, despite all the bafflement. A God who created, and withdrew, could be mighty, but he could not be love. Who could love a God remote when suffering is our lot? Our God is closer than our problems, for they are out there, to be faced. He is here, beside us, Emmanuel. ~Joseph E. McCabe in Handel's Messiah: A Devotional Commentary

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus, our Emmanuel! Amen! Alleluia!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My soul magnifies the Lord!

Sunflower by Ann L. Krumrein

Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one of you, to rejoice in God. According to the flesh only one woman can be the mother of Christ but in the world of faith Christ is the fruit of all of us. For every soul can receive the Word of God if only it is pure and preserves itself in chastity and modesty.

The soul that has been able to reach this state proclaims the greatness of the Lord just as Mary did and rejoices in God its saviour just like her.

The Lord’s greatness is proclaimed, as you have read elsewhere, where it says Join me in magnifying the Lord. This does not mean that anything can be added to the Lord’s greatness by human words, but that he is magnified in us. Christ is the image of God and so any good or religious act that a soul performs magnifies that image of God in that soul, the God in whose likeness the soul itself was made. And thus the soul itself has some share in his greatness and is ennobled.

~from St Ambrose's commentary on St Luke's Gospel

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, with you and through you, may we for ever sing the goodness of the Lord. Amen! Alleluia!.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Visitation Journey

The Visitation Journey

The second bead: scene of the lovely journey
of Lady Mary, on whom artists confer
a blue silk gown, a day pouring out Springtime,
and birds singing and flowers bowing to her.

Rather, I see a girl upon a donkey
and her too held by what was said to mind
how the sky was or if the grass was growing.
I doubt the flowers; I doubt the road was kind.

"Love hurried forth to serve," I read, approving.
But also see, with thoughts blown past her youth,
a girl riding upon a jolting donkey and
riding further and further into the truth.

Jessica Powers

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, be with us as we journey further into the truth. And when the road is not kind, help us to trust, as you did, in the loving-kindness of our God. Amen.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The love of Christ impels us!

What was the impulse that prompted Our Lady to go in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth if not the Child of Love she carried within her heart and womb? "The love of Christ impels us," St. Paul proclaimed (2 Cor 5:14), and so it was for Mary, the Mother of Our Lord. Jesus-living-in-Mary sent her on His "errand of love," and His presence within her brought untold joy to both Elizabeth and her unborn child.

This "spirit that animated the Virgin Mary at the time when she visited her cousin Elizabeth in the mountains," wrote Andre Ravier in his book Francis de Sales Sage and Saint, is "the spirit of adoring union with the Word Incarnate, the spirit of thanksgiving before ‘the marvels of God’, of spontaneity and promptness in rendering the humble services of daily life. The most extraordinary divinity enclosed in humanity the most silent and the most commonplace. The essential!”

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, instill within us your spirit of the Visitation. With you, let us gladly go in haste to bring your Divine Child to wherever He wants to be. Amen.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes...

Dear God, I didn't think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool! Eugene. (Letter received by the US Postal Service)

Dear God, you are full of paradoxes and surprises! There are a few things that I also think don't go together. For instance, how can you use such a weak, wounded person like me to bring your love to others? I don't know how or why, I only know that you can and do -- and for this I thank you with all my heart. I am yours, dear Lord -- please do with what you will for your glory. Amen.

Friday, December 18, 2009

To celebrate Advent...

To celebrate Advent means to bring to life within ourselves the hidden Presence of God. It takes place to the extent that we travel the path of conversion and change our cast of mind by turning from the visible to the invisible. As we travel this path, we learn to see the miracle of grace; we learn that there can be no more luminous source of joy for human beings and the world than the grace that has appeared in Christ. The world is not a futile confusion of drudgery and pain, for all the distress the world contains is supported in the arms of merciful love; it is caught up in the forgiving and saving graciousness of our God. ~Pope Benedict XVI in Benedictus (Dec 19)

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent and refuge of sinners, the path of conversion can be hard and tiring. When weary and discouraged, let us rest with you in the arms of God, that He may renew our joy. Amen.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The O Antiphons

During Advent, we hear anew the account of Israel's longing for salvation. How much we have in common with these men and women of old! Like them, we know captivity and oppression through the Pharaohs of our own times. Suffering and death are our lot. We shed tears of grief and sorrow. We cry out to God as the Israelites once did, "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!" (Is 64:1) We ache for healing and new birth, we long for freedom and light, we hunger for justice and we thirst for peace. We yearn for the coming of our Messiah. Where is the One who will deliver us? When will He come? Who is He and "how shall we call him"?

The answers to these questions gradually unfold throughout the liturgies of Advent, both at Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours. It is our Lord Jesus who is the Promised One. The Church reminds us of the magnificent riches of His salvation in a special way through the O Antiphons of Advent. These are short prayers that are recited before and after the Gospel Canticle of Mary, the Magnificat, during Evening Prayer from December 17 to December 23. The Gospel acclamations for Mass on these days echo the O Antiphons. Rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures, they're a collage of Old Testament types of Christ our Lord. Their messianic theme stresses the sure coming of our salvation and deliverance, and each antiphon emphasizes one of Christ’s titles as Messiah.

These antiphons, which date back to the seventh or eighth century, are called the "O Antiphons" because each one begins with the word "O". This simple, two-letter, single-syllable word is a powerful exclamation of hope, wonder, awe, astonishment and delight. Combined with the glorious Messianic titles of Christ our Lord, "O" becomes a profound prayer that leads us into the very heart of our saving God, the Word-made-flesh. The final O Antiphon on Dec 23 is the culmination of them all: O Emmanuel! God-with-us! The God who loves us and saves us comes to live among us, to make our home with and within us. O indeed!

The O Antiphons are appropriate prayers for all of us to use and ponder any time during Advent, particularly during the last few days before Christmas. The Church's use of these antiphons with the Magnificat of Our Blessed Mother is both fitting and significant because Our Lady was the mother of Jesus, bearing him in her womb "with love beyond all telling" (Preface of the Mass, Advent II). With Mary we sing a new song unto the Lord, proclaiming His greatness through all generations. Mary was also the first disciple of Christ, "standing out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently hope for and receive salvation from him" (Vatican II). It was of his mother that our Lord proclaimed "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Luke 10:28). We learn from her true discipleship in Christ. Let us live our Advent with Mary as we make the O Antiphons our prayer and meditation in preparation for the birth of her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

December 17 ~ O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. (See Sirach 24:30; Wisdom 8:1; Proverbs 1:20, 8:9; Isaiah 11:2-3, 28:29; 40:14)

December 18 ~ O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. (See Exodus 3:2; Micah 5:2; Jeremiah 32:21; Isaiah 11:4-5, 33:22; Matthew 2:6)

December 19 ~ O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. (See Isaiah 11:10, 52:15; Habakkuk 2:3; Micah 5:1; Romans 15:12; Revelation 5:5)

December 20 ~ O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom. (See Isaiah 9:6, 22:22; Revelation 3:7; Psalm 107:10)

December 21 ~ O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. (See Isaiah 9:1; Malachi 4:2; Habakkuk 3:4; Malachi 3:20; Luke 1:78-79)

December 22 ~ O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust. (See Genesis 2:7; Haggai 2:8; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 2:4, 9:5, 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Revelation 15:3; Ephesians 2:20; I Peter 2:6)

December 23 ~ O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God. (See Genesis 49:10; Ezekiel 21:32; Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, 33:22; Haggai 2:7; Matthew 1:23)

The final O Antiphon is prayed on December 23. On Christmas Eve, December 24, the church prays Evening Prayer I of the Solemnity of Christmas, and in the antiphon for the Magnificat on this evening, we exult in the birth of Our Beloved Lord and Savior: "When the sun rises in the morning sky, you will see the King of kings coming forth from the Father like a radiant bridegroom from the bridal chamber." ALLELUIA!!!

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, O let us sing with you the glory of our Lord! Amen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Once again, let us kneel down and pray for keen eyes capable of seeing God's messengers of annunciation, for vigilant hearts wise enough to perceive the words of the promise. The world is more than its burden, and life is more than the sum of its gray days. The golden threads of the genuine reality are already shining through everywhere. Let us know this, and let us, ourselves, be comforting messengers. Hope grows through the one who is himself a person of the hope and the promise. ~Alfred Delp, S.J. in Advent of the Heart

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, pray for us to have keen eyes and vigilant hearts. We want to welcome God's messengers of annunciation as you welcomed the Angel Gabriel. And we want to comfort others as you comfort us with the gift of your Divine Child. Amen.

P.S. Living Bulwark has seven selections written by Fr. Delp beginning with "Joy in the Face of Death." They are listed near the end of the right frame.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Watching for Christ

They watch for Christ who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in honoring him, who look for him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that he was coming at once… This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen; to live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again; to desire his second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first. ~from the Parochial and Plain Sermons of John Henry Cardinal Newman

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, we watch with you for the Divine Child, the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Amen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

St. Lucy

Yesterday, December 13, was the feast of St. Lucy, a young Christian martyr who lived in Cicily in the fourth century and was known for her love and kindness.. Santa Lucia's name comes from the Latin noun "lux," meaning "light," and so she is remembered on this day with a procession and ceremony of lights. When I was in high school in Washington, DC back in the sixties, I learned all about St. Lucy's Day from my dear friend Karen Healy, who invited me to go with her and her family to their Lutheran church for this special occasion. The year that Karen herself walked down the aisle as "the Lucy queen" was the most thrilling one of all for me. I marveled that she was so calm and steady with that crown of candles blazing away atop her head. Her smile lit up the darkness of the church more than those long tapers did, and the joy glowing on her face outshone their radiance.

Karen and I have been separated by many miles for many years (she now lives in Cincinnati and I in Houston), but our hearts remained united in that enduring love and friendship which surpass time and space. Last weekend she shared with me this lovely reflection that she gave at her church on this blessed season of Advent. Thank you, Karen, dear friend and Spirit sister, for sharing with us your joy, hope and love!


As I reflect on what Advent means to me, I find myself looking at a wondrous patchwork quilt of images. Lovely colored squares one overlapping another, some worn and torn, some bright and new, with the remaining squares yet to be added and the edges bound…

My experience of Advent is so richly formed by my youngest years as part of a Scandinavian Lutheran church in Washington, D.C. These earliest memories form the stitches which hold my quilt together. The season brought butterflies and dancing to my tummy and all of my senses reveled--in the enticing kitchen aromas of my Granny’s German clove cookies and rot grut mit fleude -- fresh raspberry pudding with whipped cream -- and in the sounds – "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and bells ringing on street corners -- and in the sights -- candles at night for it was our church celebration of St. Lucia Day and I was chosen to be St. Lucia with the crown of candles on my head and singing the song which honored the young girl who brought treats to the Christians in hiding: “Santa Lucia usclara hegring sprid i vart merke hurst glans av den fegring.” We created our own Advent wreath at home with greens from the back yard and lit the candle of the week every night before dinner -- it was
always exciting to get to the pink candle of JOY which represented Laudate Sunday -- that meant that the Baby Jesus AND Santa would soon be coming. It was a time of JOYOUS PREPARATION

The years of raising a young family with my husband Tom brought amazing color and richness to my quilt, and some tears and tears as well…the challenge of trying to figure out what it means to be both individual and family, suffering five miscarriages, and celebrating the gift of four miraculous little Healys. Being pregnant during Advent always connected me so closely to Mary as she carried her baby in hope and wondering … who will this amazing miracle become…how can I both protect and guide this little one and then one day let go? It was a time PREGNANT WITH HOPE

Recent years have brought more questions and doubts about who I am and who that long ago and far away Jesus is for me. I am currently in the process of coming to terms with my own Jewish background which I have only learned about in the last few years. The work has continued on the quilt, yet there are knots and threads have been pulled too tight. I have taken too little time to be still and reflect…and as I do that now it comes to me that perhaps instead of looking outward for Jesus, that Baby is being birthed IN me and that I am being held and tenderly swaddled in that warm, soft quilt. It is a time of the FULLNESS OF LOVE

The Season of Advent -- it is Joy it is Hope it is Love.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

True Joy

Behold, dear friends, what true joy consists in: It is feeling that our personal and communal existence is visited and filled by a great mystery, the mystery of God's love. To be joyful we do not just have need of things, but love and truth: We need a God who is near, who warms our heart, and responds to our profound desires. This God is manifested in Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. This is why that Baby, whom we place in the stable or the cave, is the center of everything, the heart of the world. Let us pray that every person, like the Virgin Mary, may welcome into the center of their lives the God who became a Child, font of true joy. ~Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Message of 12/13/09

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent and cause of our joy, we rejoice with you that our God is near. Amen.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Today's Feast: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son: Let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need? ~Words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, Dec. 12, 1531

The words Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to St. Juan Diego on December 12, 1531, are among the most comforting and encouraging ever recorded in the history of mankind. Whenever I am in sorrow, trouble or distress, I love to listen to them and hear our Blessed Mother assure me that all shall be well indeed.

Dear Mary, Virgin of the Advent, thank you for always being "Mater Admirabilis," my most wonderful mother! Amen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kindness and truth shall meet...

Earlier this week at Mass, our responsorial psalm was from Psalm 85 and included verse 11:

"Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss
each other."
Whenever I come across this line from Scripture, I recall the General's speech from Babette's Feast, the European film based on the story by Isak Dinesen.

"Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another. Man, in his weakness and shortsightness, believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no. Our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when your eyes are opened. And we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence, and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And, lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us, and everything have rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth are met together; and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another."

To learn more about Babette's Feast, visit the Karen Blixen-Isak Dinesen Information Site and click on "Babette's Feast" at the bottom of the page for a real feast for your heart, mind and soul.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Moon Over Isleboro by Ann L. Krumrein

The full moon is Mary full of grace. Well is Mary compared to the moon, because by the Eternal Sun she is fully illuminated with the light of wisdom and truth. Therefore, the name Mary is well interpreted illuminatrix or illuminated. For she, who is our moon and our lamp, was illuminated by the Lord, and she was the illuminatrix of the world, according to that prophetic word: "For thou lightest my lamp" (Ps. XVII.)… O truly wonderful fullness of this moon! Behold, if Mary was full of the light of wisdom, which she received from the Eternal Sun, before she conceived Him; how much more full was she, when she so wonderfully conceived this Sun, and so entirely received Him within herself! Well, therefore, said St. Bernard, when commending the fullness of the wisdom of Mary: "Heavenly wisdom built for Himself a house in Mary: for He so filled her mind that from the very fullness of her mind her flesh became fecund, and the Virgin by a singular grace brought forth that same Wisdom, covered with a garb of flesh, whom she had first conceived in her pure mind." ~from Mirror of the Blessed Virgin Mary, often attributed to St. Bonaventure, but actually written by Conrad Holzinger of Saxony

Dear Mary, Virgin of the Advent, thank you for giving us your Light! Amen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Our Advent Times

We all need times of waiting and expectancy in our lives in order to savour the joy of fulfilment. We need to live with the night and darkness before we can appreciate the coming of dawn. And this is written into nature if only we have eyes to see and hearts attentive to life's mysteries. The expectant mother must wait nine long months before she sees the face of her child. The seed must be buried and broken open in the dark earth before it can emerge into the light of day as a new green shoot. A project needs to mature from the stage of being a mere idea hidden in someone's mind to finding practical expression in reality.

We all have times of Advent in our own lives, just as in the liturgical season of Advent we remember the waiting of Israel through the ages, and the waiting of Mary as she carries her child in her womb. We are sure she will bring him forth once again on Christmas day for our contemplation, and we are ready to relive once again the story of the shepherds and the birth at Bethlehem. It is all so familiar and yet all so new each time Christmas comes round. And every year we are invited to reach a more profound depth in our own lives as we contemplate the birth of the Son of God among us.

Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, O.Carm., "Waiting in Hope"

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, teach us to wait in hope.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Second Sunday of Advent

The Virgin, weighed down
with the Word of God,
comes down the road:
if only you'll shelter her.

St. John of the Cross, quoted in A Year with Mary by Elizabeth Ruth Obbard, Carmelite nun and writer

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, come home with me. Amen.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Isaiah 40:1

Comfort ye -- what a good word to the human heart from the heart of God. That word is the best word. To know that the Creator is also the comforter is to have peace at the center. Behind the cosmos is One who cares. He who knows all is he who loves most. You are known completely. And you are loved eternally. Therefore: "Comfort ye."

...Amid our crushing burdens, and those gnawing anxieties which torment so terribly, it speaks to us. Right beside the suffering we endure, which might drive out the saving trust, there stands the word to lift up our hearts: "Comfort ye." For our iniquity is pardoned. That is the news beautiful which breaks upon us in Advent.

Joseph E. McCabe in Handel's Messiah: A Devotional Commentary

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, we rejoice with you to know the comfort of God through the Divine Child in your heart and womb, Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Power of Compassion

In the gospel from today's Mass (Mt 9:27-31), our Lord Jesus has compassion on two blind men who cry out to him for help. He heals them, and with their sight renewed, they go and spread the word of God's goodness and mercy.

In today's news, CNN follows up on a would-be robbery in Long Island this past May. As Mohammad Sohail closed his convenience store, a man barged into his store armed with a baseball bat and demanded money. Sohail grabbed his ever-ready rifle, aimed it at the robber's face, and forced him to the floor. The would-be robber started pleading for mercy, explaining "I'm sorry, I have no food. I have no money. My whole family is hungry. Don't call the police. Don't shoot me." According to CNN, "Sohail made the man pledge never to rob anybody ever again, then gave the man $40 and a loaf bread. Sohail, who is from Pakistan, said the man then wanted to be a Muslim like him, so he recited an Islamic oath and gave the would-be robber the name Nawaz Sharif Zardari." Sohail did not call the police then and has not pressed charges since.

This past Wednesday, Sohail received an envelope in the mail with no return address. It contained a $50 bill and a note from the would-be robber who was transformed by Sohail's compassion. The typed note begins, ""You change My Life (sic)," and the man apologizes for his actions, says that Sohail inspired him to become a "True Muslin," and declares that his life has changed dramatically.

The power of compassion is inestimable. One single act of kindness has far-reaching effects that we cannot begin to imagine and may never grasp. On his deathbed, Baron Friedrich von Hügel, Austrian Roman Catholic layman and religious writer, theologian and apologist, said "Caring is the greatest thing ,caring matters most." To care is to love, to give life. It is a very real way to shine the light of Advent upon our dark and dreary world.

Dear Mary, Virgin of the Advent, help us to shine the light of your Son's compassion upon everyone we meet on our Advent journey. Amen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Being Shaken by Advent

Advent is time when we ought to be shaken and brought to a realization of ourselves. The necessary condition for the fulfillment of Advent is the renunciation of the presumptuous attitudes and alluring dreams in which and by means of which we always build ourselves imaginary worlds. In this way we force reality to take us to itself by force—by force, in much pain and suffering.

The shocked awakening is definitely part of experiencing Advent. But at the same time there is much more that belongs to it. Advent is blessed with God’s promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time. These promises kindle the inner light in our hearts. Being shattered, being awakened—only with these is life made capable of Advent. In the bitterness of awakening, in the helplessness of “coming to,” in the wretchedness of realizing our limitations, the golden threads that pass between heaven and earth in the times reach us. These golden threads give the world a taste of the abundance it can have.

We must not shy away from Advent thoughts of this kind. We must let our inner eye see and let our hearts range far. We will encounter the earnestness of Advent and the blessing of Advent in a different way. We will see characters, completed and whole personalities, that belong to these days and to all days—characters in whom the Advent message and the Advent blessing simply exist and live, calling out to us and touching us to cheer and shake us, to console and to uplift us.

I am referring to characters that live in these days and all days. The types I mean are these three: the Angel of Annunciation, the Blessed Woman, and the Crier in the Wilderness.

Fr. Alfred Delp,S.J.

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, you, too, were shaken when you learned that God had chosen you to be the mother of the Divine Child, yet you continued to trust Him who is all love. When God pierces our hearts and shatters our lives, may it be for us, as it was for you, a time of awakening to the blessings and promises of Advent. Amen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent Friends

During Advent, I like to think about the people who were closest to our Lord Jesus at His coming into this world. We share together the common bond of our humanity and our fervent longing to have it redeemed by Him. These men and women are our marvelous comrades, our friends and companions as we make the yearly journey from Annunciation to Nativity to Calvary and beyond. We celebrate with them the wonder and the ecstasy of the Incarnation. As Advent begins, I strive to live as they did, in joyful hope of the coming of the Divine Child, whose birth is our salvation.

With MARY, I surrender in faith to the birthing of God within me, patient with the rhythm of my growth. I take time to ponder the Word-made-flesh in my life, and I find deepened joy in God, my Savior.

With JOSEPH, I pay attention to my dreams, hopes and aspirations. I listen courageously to them and respond wholeheartedly, trusting that the God who speaks to me in such human ways also gives me the means to accomplish His holy will.

With the ANGELS, I become a herald of good news and a messenger of peace. I exultantly proclaim the glory of the Lord as I happily and faithfully make the rounds of my daily life.

With the SHEPHERDS, I remain open to the Lord's presence in my everyday life. I "hold every moment sacred" as I continually discover anew the myriad ways God dwells among us.

With the WISE MEN, I journey steadfastly to my destination, onwards and upwards and, yes, sometimes in rather roundabout ways. I revel to be forever in process, constantly in search of a more abundant life, a fuller existence for myself and for all God's people. I seek always the face of the Lord.

With the OX and the ASS and all the ANIMALS crowded around the manger — no, they are not people, but in their own way they are lovely kindred spirits — I give simply and humbly whatever is mine to give, confident that no gift is too small or too poor in the eyes of our gracious God when given freely from a loving heart.

With all the people of Christmas, I look beyond the darkness of this world to the Everlasting Light. With lively hope, I watch and wait. With renewed wonder, I bend the knee and adore. With enlarged gratitude, I find growing strength in the blessed assurance of Emmanuel, God-with-us. And with gladness beyond measure, my entire being cries out, "Come, Lord Jesus — come!"

Dear Mary, Virgin of Advent, help us to cherish the family and friends your Divine Child gives to us. With you, we want to love and adore Him for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

To see with different eyes...

Advent, this intense liturgical time that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to grasp a presence. It is an invitation to understand that every event of the day is a gesture that God directs to us, sign of the care he has for each one of us. How many times God makes us perceive something of his love! To have, so to speak, an "interior diary" of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord who is present. Should not the certainty of his presence help us to see the world with different eyes? Should it not help us to see our whole existence as a "visit," as a way in which he can come to us and be close to us, in each situation? ~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at First Vespers for the First Sunday of Advent, 11/28/09

Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. Luke 10:23

Dear Mary, Virgin of the Advent, help us to see what you saw when the Divine Child made his home within you. Amen.